Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2024

Hamilton excited after “best session we’ve had this year” in practice

Formula 1

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Lewis Hamilton was encouraged by Mercedes’ performance in the first day of practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

He set the fifth-quickest time in the opening hour of running, within half a second of pace-setter Max Verstappen. Although Hamilton improved to second place in the later session, most drivers did not set times due to the damp conditions.

However he said the W15 felt better than ever in first practice. “It was a great session,” said Hamilton. “It was a really good session for us, it was the best session that we’ve had this year, the best the car has felt this year so far.

“So it felt really positive and I was really excited because this is a circuit that every driver loves to drive.”

Mercedes have shown flashes of potential in practice sessions so far this year but are yet to finish higher than fifth in a race. Hamilton praised the work the team has done since the Australian Grand Prix to improve its car.

“The last couple of years we’ve had a really difficult balance, really difficult car and a difficult balance to drive here,” he said. “And given the difficult last few races we’ve had, great work’s been done this past week and we just seem to have hit the ground a bit more in a sweeter spot. So I haven’t really made any changes since.”

He believes the team needs to avoid changing its car’s balance too much over the rest of the weekend. “I think we’ve got a better platform or baseline to start from,” said Hamilton. “So as long as we don’t make too many changes in and mess it up, I think probably just stay where we are.”

His team mate George Russell agreed they “definitely performed better than we expected” in first practice which “was a pleasant surprise.” However he regretted the lost opportunity to test set-up changes in the second session.

“The car was feeling really nice to drive and Lewis and I were really, really happy with the balance,” he said. “It has been performing better when it’s been slightly colder, but we’ve been doing a lot of test items to try and make that car a little bit more consistent when conditions are variable.

“So, time will tell. FP2 was definitely a miss for everybody as we had some interesting things we wanted to try. But that’s the nature of Formula 1 sometimes.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “Hamilton excited after “best session we’ve had this year” in practice”

  1. This is exactly what they were talking about though, amazing on the friday, best car ever… Then falls off through to Q3, let’s see if it’s more of the same.

    1. Yeah, it certainly isn’t the first time they looked decent on friday only to fail to show much in qualifying and the race. It remains to be seen how they do here, especially since they hadn’t seemed to do much good on fast cornering sections so far, which are abundant in Suzuka.

      1. I have a feeling their problem is tracks with multiple types of corners. Suzuka’s corners are mostly high speed. They said they could not optimized their car for different types of corners in one track. If they optimized it for the high speed, they would lose in the low speed and vice versa. But this is a new concept, and I would never discount them for developing a car in a season.

        1. That’s a fair point, yeah. It’s easier to get the balance right when you only have to focus on one thing and optimise for that.

          I hope they can get on top of things, but unless they really know where to get to with development, I wouldn’t bet too much on them getting it right this time, unlike the last 2 years.

  2. the reason why Mercedes think they are good in the cold is because nobody else is really pushing their tires and the window for the tires isn’t even opened up. Especially if you were the only driver to run softs in the opening session.

    the best sessions offer insight, the first two free practices were nothing burgers.

    1. Do you not think Hamilton has enough experience to know when the car feels good? Everyone knows practice isn’t about pace.

      1. The same experience Hamilton used to demand different position of the cockpit and all his other wishes baked into 2024 Mercedes design, which gave him the worst start in his F1 career?

        1. What a stupid reply. Your hate for an individual you have never met knows no bounds. Yes LH asked for several changes to the car for 2024 so the designers took it on-board and then designed the turd we see today. Unless you can prove LH physically designed and assembled the car himself then to blame him for the monstrosity that is the W15 is unfounded. How about mentioning that GR also asked for various changes in prep for the 24 season and still we have the poop show that is the W15.

          And they say sport is there to unite people yet we have individuals like you and many others who just love to hate on one or more sports personality at any given opportunity. No one is perfect let alone LH but despite this you chose to have constant digs at the guy. Get your own character in order before criticising someone else’s.

          1. armchairs stupidity

          2. Yes, awesome seasons like 2021 also cause a lot of toxicity, a lot of verstappen fans became anti-hamilton at the time and a lot of hamilton fans became anti-verstappen.

          3. And I’m not saying I became anti-hamilton, especially now that he has to show more since he no longer has a dominant or even the best car, however I think the silverstone 2021 behaviour during and after the race was disgusting.

  3. So Q3 or not with how Goldilocks that car seems to be?

  4. It’s sad when Mercedes are happy with being 0.5 off in a practice session.

    Each week they perform better in practice so it’s clear they are using higher engine modes than the others. Ferrari, Aston Martin and McLaren will all have pace in hand. They’ve done it for the last few race weekends. Everyone else improves and their times stay very similar. Let’s wait and see, but I’m predicting George p5 at best and Hamilton will again struggle to make Q3.

    There’s nothing to get excited about at Mercedes. They are firmly back to being a midfield team. They might get a couple of lucky podiums but nothing on raw pace alone.

    1. Yes, I guess we’re back to the 2010-2012 mercedes, pretty disappointing considering it was the only team that could potentially challenge red bull.

  5. But the temperature will be much higher on Sunday?

  6. Mercedes are the new Manchester United (or the old McLaren, still trying to work their way to the front again, even today, 16 years on).

    1. Thinking about that, ferrari showed it’s possible to fail at winning any title for 20 years and get back to it (1979 at least driver’s title, I struggle to write the name of the driver who won it and 1999 constructor’s title only), I wonder if mclaren and williams will ever get back to winning ways: williams is now at a massive 27 years without a title and 21 years without a car able to fight for the title and in a much worse position than mclaren.

  7. Surely FP2 was their best, when they were 2nd
    (Sarcasm)

    1. Ahah, that’s a good one, considering both sessions are unrepresentative, might as well pick the one where you end up farthest ahead!

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